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Schnütgen Museum (St. Cecilia), Cologne

St. Cecilia Church (St. Cäcilien) is one of the 12 Romanesque churches of Cologne. Built in 1130-60 as a house for noble canonesses, it later became an Augustinian convent and a hospital.

Today St. Cecilia's Church shelters the Schnütgen Museum, an excellent collection of medieval religious art. Artworks surviving from the church itself include an important tympanum carving of 1160 and murals in the choir and nave.


The site of St. Cecilia was originally occupied by Roman baths. A church was first built here in early Carolingian times; a charter of Archbishop Willibert of Cologne mentions the existence of St. Cecilia as a house for noble canonesses in 888 AD. The present church building dates primarily from 1130 to 1160; murals were added to the choir about 1300.

In 1475, St. Cecilia was converted from a house of canonesses to a convent of Augustinian nuns, and the church underwent some modifications. The flat nave ceiling was replaced by a Gothic ribbed vault and a sacristy replaced the apse at the east end of the north aisle.

The convent was dissolved in 1803 and a hospital was established on the site. The convent buildings on the west side were replaced with new hospital buildings in 1848. The Church of St. Cecilia became the hospital chapel.

Like most buildings in Cologne, St. Cecilia suffered extensive damage in World War II. After the war it was restored to its original Romanesque appearance by Karl Band, which included reverting to a flat ceiling in the nave.

Since 1956, St. Cecilia Church has housed the Museum Schnütgen, which centers around a collection donated to the City of Cologne by Alexander Schnütgen in 1906. Construction is currently underway on a new museum complex surrounding the church/museum, which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

What to See

Like their medieval counterparts, today's visitors usually approach St. Cäecilien from the north. The entrance to the church and museum is on this side too, but it's worth walking around the left (east) side for a look at the Romanesque apse and the neighboring Church of St. Peter before going in.

Over the north door is an important piece of Romanesque art: a tympanum relief of c.1160 depicting St. Cecilia. It is composed of stone blocks that were taken from a Roman mausoleum. In the center Cecilia receives a martyr's crown from an angel, while her fiance Valerianus and his brother Tiburtius look on. An inscription says that all believers who pass through the door will receive heavenly rewards if they follow the virtuous example of the saints.

St. Cecilia's Church preserves most of its original Romanesque plan: a central nave with vaulted side aisles, an east apse, and a nun's gallery over a crypt in the west. There is no transept, but there were originally north and south apses. The north apse was replaced with a sacristy in the 15th century, which now houses the ivory and metalwork collections of the museum.

There are three blocks of medieval murals surviving in situ: musical angels around a window in the north nave wall; scenes from the Passion of Christ on the north wall of the choir; and scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. Cecilia on the south wall of the choir. All date from around 1300.

The collection of the Museum Schnütgen is extensive: about 2,000 works of church art in bronze, silver, gold and ivory; about 1,100 works of art in wood; and roughly 500 Romanesque and Gothic stone sculptures.

The textile collection includes more than 250 liturgical robes and 3,500 materials from late antiquity to the 20th century; the collection of glass paintings is one of the largest in the world. Only about 10% of the collection can currently be displayed at a time, but the new buildings will allow for significantly more.

Quick Facts on Schnütgen Museum (St. Cecilia)

Site Information
Names:Cäcilienkirche; Church of St. Cecilia; Schnütgen Museum; Schnütgen Museum, Cologne
Categories:Churches; Museums
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic; Augustinian
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Cologne, Germany
Coordinates:50.934600° N, 6.951750° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Schnütgen Museum (St. Cecilia)

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  1. Personal visit (December 20, 2007).
  2. "St. Cäcilien/Museum Schnütgen" - sign outside the church provided by Förderverein Romanische Kirchen Köln
  3. Museum Schnütgen - Museen Köln

More Information

Article Info

Title:Schnütgen Museum (St. Cecilia), Cologne
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:12/15/2009
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/cologne-st-cecilia-schnutgen-museum">Schnütgen Museum (St. Cecilia), Cologne</a>